Louis Theroux's interview with Joe Exotic

Publish Date
Tuesday, 7 April 2020, 5:39PM

Louis Theroux meets the people who own animals like tigers, lions and chimpanzees and asks what drives them to keep these wild – and potentially dangerous – creatures as pets.

The World Wildlife Fund estimate that there are now more tigers in captivity in the US than there are in the wild in the rest of the world. Louis travels to America’s heartlands to meet the people who choose to own animals you would normally expect to find in the wilds of Africa and Asia.

Louis is immersed in the chaotic world of Joe, an exotic animal park owner whose collection of 180 lions and tigers appears to be spiralling out of control. He tries to understand the logic in the park’s breeding programme that produces animals that will eventually be of little value and will need to be homed in cages at a great cost.

He also meets Connie, a single woman in her 60s who shares her home with 20 chimpanzees that she calls family. This is a family whose members will spend the majority of their lives separated by bars from their human ‘mother’ for fear that they may attack and mutilate her.

Throughout the film Louis wrestles with the ambiguities of keeping an exotic animal as a pet; can a ‘wild’ animal be happy with a life in captivity? Why own and care for an animal whose natural instinct is to kill?

Louis Theroux: America’s Most Dangerous Pets screens tonight on BBC Earth SKY Channel 74 at 9.25pm